The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy

I’m thinking about habits right now, specifically mine, because I am fully aware that I’m at the crux of needing to change some of mine right now.

Over the past few weeks, probably since going back to work, I feel like I’ve been sort of in drift mode. Meaning, I know where I want to get to, and I can see the destination out on the horizon, but there’s no wind and my engine seems to be malfunctioning.

My boat is drifting off course.

Now it’s early enough on my journey–I still have time to get everything fixed and reroute.

But if I wait too long, keep staring at the sunset in a mindless paralysis of non-activity, the degrees between where I am and where I need to be will eventually become so great that I will have blown any and all chances of arriving on time.

Enter the toolbox called Habits.

Fortunately for me, I know the habits that have worked for me in the past that get me working consistently and progressively:

  • Waking up early
  • Setting reasonable daily word count goals (that are actually achievable on hard/busy days)
  • Saying “no” to pretty much everything and everyone for at least 4-5 months
  • Closing my office door, locking it, and being very firm with anyone looking to get past it
  • Having set social media times and restrictions about “checking it real quick”
  • Resisting the urge to binge all the amazing shows for at least 4-5 months
  • Not drinking alcohol for at least 6 months (I do miss my wine…but even one glass makes me so lazy and also prone to Netflix my motivation away)
  • Exercising at least twice a week because everything else is easier when I have energy and feel alert

I have found that even one-less-than-helpful-habit tends to set off a chain reaction on a whole slew of others that accelerates my drift status away from where I want to get to.

For example: When I haven’t worked out for a few weeks, by the time I get home from work on Friday I am absolutely exhausted. I drag myself into the house vowing that I will just take a quick nap and then get to work on writing in order to kick start the weekend of writing.

But then, my husband texts me a siren call, “What to meet up for happy hour?”

Now, I’ve been working my ass off all week–I DESERVE happy hour and I really love sitting at that particularly atmospheric bar and catching up with this guy.

“Yes! See you there.”

Now we have a wonderful time! And that’s great.

Except, as I’ve aged I have found, sadly, that even one glass of wine leaves me sluggish and mentally unfocused. Additionally, these effects don’t seem to subside as quickly as the alcohol does. So, I wake up Saturday morning, later than I wanted to, and not especially raring to go on mentally strenuous activities requiring me to use my imagination and sustain focus and attention for extended periods of time.

Instead, I roll toward my husband and whisper, “Hey, let’s go out for breakfast.”

And because he’s such an easy sell, we spend the next six hours on breakfast, then shopping, then wandering around downtown–all of which is completely lovely but does not involve me sitting in from on my keyboard.

I’m drifting. And every moment takes me farther and farther away.

Here is how I change course:

It’s Friday night and I’m exhausted from a long week. But I’m not even going to entertain taking a nap–I go to Orange Theory instead.

Text from husband comes in, “What to meet me for happy hour?”

Yes, I really do. But I text back,

“Sorry, on my way to OT and then I’m in for the night. Also, I’m writing this weekend but if I hit my word count goal tomorrow morning want to go see a movie after?”

With this course of events, I’ve likely added at least five thousand words to my manuscript by Sunday night AND feel rested and energized enough (because of working out and making healthy choices) to get up early Monday morning before work and keep at it.

I’m heading back toward my course with momentum fueled by the habits and choices that I KNOW get me there and then keep me there.

On Habits
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